Colorado "Kidnapping" Laws
(18-3-301 & 18-3-302 C.R.S.)

sitting woman with chained wrists on her knees

The Colorado felony crime of kidnapping

In Colorado kidnapping is the crime of imprisoning another person and/or causing someone to move from one place to another by:

  • Force, or
  • Unlawful enticement or persuasion.

The difference between first degree kidnapping, second degree kidnapping and false imprisonment

Kidnapping someone for ransom is Colorado first degree kidnapping.

Kidnapping for any purpose other than ransom is Colorado second degree kidnapping.

Unlike first degree kidnapping, second degree kidnapping always involves movement of the victim – even if it is a very short distance. If the victim is not moved and is kept only a short time, it is usually false imprisonment under 18-3-303 C.R.S. -- a similar, but less serious crime.

Colorado kidnapping penalties

Kidnapping is a always a felony in Colorado. Even when the victim is unharmed, the penalty for Colorado first degree kidnapping can be as much as:

  • 24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

And in certain circumstances, the prison sentence can be even longer:

  • Up to 48 years in prison if you used, or you possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon;
  • Up to life in prison if the kidnapping victim was injured; or
  • Death, if the kidnapping victim died.

Consequences of second degree kidnapping can include:

  • Up to 8 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

And punishment for second degree kidnapping can increase to as much as:

  • 16 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 if you intended to sell or trade the victim for money, drugs or other consideration;
  • 32 years and a fine of up to $750,000 if you intended to sell or trade the victim and you used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon,
  • 24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000 if you robbed the victim; 
  • 48 years and a fine of up to $1,000,000 if you robbed the victim and used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon, or
  • Life imprisonment if you committed a sexual offense against your kidnapping victim by means of force or you used, or threatened to use, a deadly weapon.

To help you better understand Colorado's kidnapping laws, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

kidnapping victim tied up in trunk of car

1. What is kidnapping?

1.1. Definition of first degree kidnapping -- 18-3-301 C.R.S.

Section 18-3-301 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) sets forth the crime of fist degree kidnapping.

18-3-301 (1) C.R.S. provides:

  • (1) Any person who does any of the following acts with the intent thereby to force the victim or any other person to make any concession or give up anything of value in order to secure a release of a person under the offender's actual or apparent control commits first degree kidnapping:
    • (a) Forcibly seizes and carries any person from one place to another; or
    • (b) Entices or persuades any person to go from one place to another; or
    • (c) Imprisons or forcibly secretes any person.

1.2. Definition of second degree kidnapping -- 18-3-302 C.R.S.

18-3-302 (1), C.R.S. defines second degree kidnapping. That section provides:

  • (1) Any person who knowingly seizes and carries any person from one place to another, without his consent and without lawful justification, commits second degree kidnapping.
  • (2) Any person who takes, entices, or decoys away any child not his own under the age of eighteen years with intent to keep or conceal the child from his parent or guardian or with intent to sell, trade, or barter such child for consideration commits second degree kidnapping.

1.3. The difference between first and second degree kidnapping

The most significant difference between Colorado first and second degree kidnapping is that first degree kidnapping requires the intent to secure a ransom or other concession.

However, both first and second degree kidnapping are serious felonies in Colorado. And in some cases, depending on what happens during the kidnapping, second degree kidnapping can even be punished more harshly than first degree kidnapping.

1.4. The legal definition of “asportation” (movement)

Another difference between first and second degree kidnapping arises from the concept of seizing and carry the victim to another location -- known legally as “asportation.” Force need not be used in order for the victim to be seized.1

Nor does the victim need to be moved a great distance. Any distance – no matter how short – can constitute asportation. The only test is that the movement result in a substantial increase of harm to the victim.2

  • Example: Joe accosts Katie as she leaves her office one night. He orders her into a dark alley a few feet away. Even though he did not use force or move her very far, because being in a dark place increases Katie's risk of harm, Joe has satisfied the asportation requirement of kidnapping.

1.5. The difference between second degree kidnapping and false imprisonment

The concept of asportation is also important in distinguishing between Colorado second degree kidnapping and false imprisonment under 18-3-303 C.R.S.

If you unlawfully detain someone without his or her consent, but don't move the person, it is false imprisonment, a less serious crime than kidnapping.

In most cases, false imprisonment in Colorado is a class 2 misdemeanor. It only becomes a felony when:

  • You use force or the threat of force to confine or detain the other person; AND
  • You confine or detain the other person for at least 12 hours.
  • Example: Doug suspects his co-worker, Emma, of stealing his lunch from the company refrigerator. So when Emma goes to the supply closet, Doug locks her in and searches Emma's office. 20 minutes later, Doug apologizes and lets Emma out. Doug is guilty of false imprisonment.
  • But… if Doug grabbed Emma and pulled her into the closet, he would be guilty of second degree kidnapping. Even though the crime is almost exactly the same, because the second example involves movement, it is kidnapping.
little girl asleep in train car

1.6. Can you kidnap your own child?

Child custody and abduction is governed in Colorado by two sets of laws:

  • The “Uniform Child-custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act,” 14-13-101, C.R.S. and
  • The “Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act,” 14-13.5-101, C.R.S.

You violate these laws when:

  • You take your child out of the state in violation of a court order or without the consent of the other parent, or
  • You wrongfully retain the child when you are supposed to return him or her to the other parent.

Acting in violation of these laws could be charged as kidnapping. Therefore, before removing a child from the state, we recommend you speak to a qualified family lawyer or the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the child's legal place of residence.

2. Consequences of kidnapping in Colorado

2.1. "Extraordinary risk" enhancement

Kidnapping is considered a Colorado “extraordinary risk” crime. As a result, the maximum sentence for kidnapping is anywhere from two to four years longer than other felonies in the same class.

2.2. "Crime of violence" enhancement

Kidnapping becomes a Colorado “crime of violence” if:

  • You used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon; or
  • You caused serious bodily injury or death to any other person except another participant.

If you are convicted of kidnapping as a crime of violence, you will face increased minimum and maximum penalties.

2.3. First degree kidnapping penalties

If the victim is physically unharmed, first degree kidnapping is a class 2 felony. Punishment for first degree kidnapping includes:

  • 8-24 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.

However, if you possessed a deadly weapon and threatened the victim with it, then even if the victim is unharmed, the possible prison sentence increases to
16-48 years.

And if the kidnapping victim was injured or died, first degree kidnapping is a Colorado class 1 felony. In addition to the fine set forth above, penalties for first degree kidnapping as a class 1 felony include:

  • 16-years to life imprisonment, with the possibility of the death sentence if the kidnapping victim died.

2.4. Second degree kidnapping penalties

Second degree kidnapping is, at a minimum, a Colorado class 4 felony as well as an extraordinary risk crime. Consequences of second degree kidnapping can include:

  • 2-8 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

However, if you intend to sell, trade or barter the victim for money, drugs or other consideration, second degree kidnapping is a class 3 felony with penalties of:

  • 4-16 years in prison (or 10-32 years if you used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon), and/or
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

If you also rob your victim, the punishment for kidnapping can include:

  • 8-24 years in prison (increasing to 16-48 years if you used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon), and/or
  • A fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.

And if you committed a sexual offense against your kidnapping victim and the crime was a crime of violence, you will be sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of 21 years-life imprisonment.

3. Colorado kidnapping defenses

Defending a Colorado kidnapping charge depends very much on the facts of your case. Some common defenses to kidnapping charges include (but are not limited to):

  • You didn't move the victim,
  • You had the legal right to move and/or detain the alleged victim,
  • The alleged victim went with you willingly,
  • You were the victim of mistaken identity, or
  • You had to move the alleged victim in order to keep him/her safe.

Call us for help…

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Kidnapping is a complicated and nuanced crime that has serious consequences. If you or someone you know has been arrested for kidnapping in Colorado, we recommend you call a top Colorado criminal defense attorney as earlier as possible.

Our Denver kidnapping lawyers are some of the best kidnapping lawyers in Colorado. We understand how to defend against Colorado kidnapping charges. We know how the police and prosecutors put together their cases.

Our approach to defending kidnapping charges is proactive, tough and compassionate. We are skilled at negotiating plea bargains to lesser charges (such as false imprisonment). But we are also not afraid to take your case to trial in front of a jury should it come to that.

To speak to one of our caring Colorado criminal defense lawyers about your case, contact us using the form on this page. Or, if you'd prefer, call us at our Denver home office. Your initial consultation is free and completely confidential.

In Denver we are located at:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112


Legal references:

  1. See, e.g., People v. Metcalf, App.1996, 926 P.2d 133, modified on denial of rehearing, certiorari denied.
  2. See People v. Ridenour, App.1994, 878 P.2d 23, certiorari denied. 

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